NewLink Consulting, Toronto found: 29% of U.S. life policyholders lost contact with the agent/financial planner who had sold them the policy, and 41% if the policy was purchased from an agent/broker.

Guest blogger Mark Weishaar

An orphan can be defined as “One who lacks support, supervision or care”.
How many do you have in your CRM database? How many customers have simply become dormant and shuffled into an inactive or unassigned category?

In a recent conversation with my client from a major life insurance carrier, I was appalled to learn that her company had well over 100,000 orphaned policyholders. In insurance-speak, these are folks who originally purchased a policy from an agent, but were never re-assigned after that agent left the company.

Many industries have a similar category in their database. Inactive bank accounts, infrequent flyers, one-time visitors… the list goes on. It gets me thinking: how many organizations could use a shot in the bottom-line? This category represents a huge untapped asset:

  1. Orphans are never contacted. You have forgotten about them, and they have forgotten about you. How likely are they to ever upgrade or buy another product or service from you? 
  2. If your competition is effectively marketing – and you know they are – how many competing offers can your orphans resist? Retention rates suffer when customers are ignored. 

The ROI of Marketing to Orphaned Policyholders

Let’s put some dollars and sense behind a simple illustration exercise: 

With the potential for this scope of increased revenue, it makes no sense to me that so many insurance companies do not devote any attention to their orphaned policyholders. Political turf issues over account re-assignment? Possibly. “Don’t rock the boat” and “Let sleeping clients lie” mentality? Maybe. Inertia? Most likely. 

Case Study: A short while back, I worked with a major hotel chain to develop a multi-pronged marketing campaign. Our objective was to revitalize their “dormant” clients: those who had not booked a room within the previous 24 months. Of the many successful initiatives we launched, the highlight was going back to the dormant customers.

After modeling their data against the frequent guests and re-soliciting a predictive-modeled group with an offer, we generated an ROI of 1,090%!

Unheard of? Yes. But true. And I could predict similar successes in your own organization.

So take a look at your entire customer file. Find those pockets of orphaned customers who have been ignored for whatever reason. Develop a strategy to solicit them with a product offering using a predictive model-driven approach. The incremental revenue generation and low acquisition costs are likely to amaze you, and will demonstrate once again the truism that:

Your Best Customer is Your Current Customer.

Mark Weishaar is a veteran financial services direct marketer and senior executive delivering broad range of leadership responsibility, experience and accomplishment across brand strategy, marketing, loyalty programs, customer data analytics, distribution, CRM, and social media on a worldwide basis.  He has directed the sales & marketing of a wide variety of financial services products and programs and held senior level roles in start-ups and  Fortune 100 companies in direct marketing environments, and  traditional agent/advisor companies. He has a unique ability to analyze and develop actionable marketing and sales programs with measurable ROI improvements.
Want to chat with Mark? Reply to him here or leave a comment on the blog.

Top 5 Challenges Marketers Face

Hubspot’s analysis of the top Challenges for B2B vs. B2C shows that the most common challenge across both segments is driving awareness and traffic, in other words, optimizing the top of the funnel to grow their reach. Here are the top challenges:

The top 10 challenges across both B2B and B2C companies are:

  1. Awareness/traffic (22.5%)
  2. Lead generation (16.2%)
  3. Social media (6.3%)
  4. Targeting (5.4%)
  5. Branding/brand recognition (4.5%)
  6. Converting leads to customers (3.6%)
  7. Keeping up with marketing trends (3.6%)
  8. Increasing/proving ROI (2.7%)
  9. Content creation (1.8%)
  10. Budget (1.8%)

The top 5 B2B marketing challenges are:

  1. Awareness/traffic (22.5%)
  2. Lead generation (16.2%)
  3. Social media (6.3%)
  4. Targeting (5.4%)
  5. Branding/brand recognition (4.5%)

The top 5 B2C marketing challenges are:

  1. Awareness/traffic (19.6%)
  2. Social media (17.9%)
  3. Targeting (10.7%)
  4. Budget (8%)
  5. Lead generation (8%)

The HubSpot Inbound Internet Marketing blog’s Sarah Goliger identifies 5 Major Challenges Marketers Face (And How to Solve Them). While we all face different challenges, there are some areas that any marketer can improve on. HubSpot’s quick 3-question quiz – “What’s Your Biggest Marketing Opportunity?”  can help you hone in on where you might best focus your efforts to improve the effectiveness of your marketing more effective.HubSpot’s analyzed their results to identify some of the most common challenges marketers have told them that they face, and suggests solutions.

1. Generating Awareness and Driving Traffic 

Challenge: To beging generating leads to convert into customers, you need to get your audience’s attention. This means generating a large enough volume of interested prospects by understanding which channels can get you the highest return.Solution: You first need to determine if you are using the right social networks where your natural audience is.  Some suggestions include using tools to “widen the top of your marketing funnel, such as:

2. Targeting Effectively 

 Challenge: Hubspot recommends that you identify your buyer personas. In other words, make a clear determination of who it is you should be marketing to:

Offer some sort of value to them (fulfill a need or desire – for instance, to learn or understand something about your industry or alleviate a problem that your product aims to solve.)

Make your message relevant to your audience.

Solution: Start by developing a detailed picture of your target audience, building buyer personas through a 3 step process:

  • Segment by demographics.
  • Identify their needs.
  • Develop behavior-based profiles.

Then determine what each buyer persona is looking for for and how you can provide value to that persona and tailor your content to make your message relevant to every individual lead.  Hubspot provides  and developed a  to help you research and create detailed buyer personas.

3. Using Social Media to Generate Customers and Revenue

Challenge: Increasingly, companies understand the business value in social media marketing. The problem is, they don’t know how to convert social engagement into dollars – the science of targeting, engaging, and nurturing a social following that can be a source of quality leads for conversion.Solution: Managing media marketing requires that you:

  • Recognize influencers.
  • Segment groups of users based on their social activity and interests.
  • Properly time and manage appropriate follow-up communication.

Social media lead intelligence about a lead’s behavior and interaction with your company in social networks will enable public facing representatives to have more meaningful and targeted conversations with specific, tailored information about that person’s activity. Personalized conversations based on information that is personally relevant to the customer lead to higher conversion rates.

4. Keeping Up With Marketing Trends and Strategies

Challenge: Marketing has increasingly shifted its focus from print media to online media, and social media is becoming a dominant platform for two-way communication and feedback collection. How can you keep up with new technologies, trends and strategies in this quickly changing environment?Solution: Effective marketing means investing in consumer research and ongoing marketing resources to know:

  • Where your audience is.
  • How to provide value to them.
  • What the best tools and methods are for doing so.

5. Proving ROI

Challenge: The proliferation of advanced analytics tools means that marketers are held to a higher standard. You must be able to measure the value of your efforts in terms of leads, customers, and revenue, tying every single lead, customer, and dollar back to the marketing initiative that created them.

Solution: Some suggestions Hubspot presents are as follows:

  • Closed-loop marketing cuts through the vagueness of marketing myths and assumptions and reveals real data about the results of your marketing efforts.
  • Advanced marketing analytics can track which marketing activities are generating leads, customers, and revenue.

Closed Loop Marketing means developing a loop of two-way messaging with customers. Done effectively, messages are pushed to the customer based on insights on customer preferences, or accessed in a self-service model. Data is gathered during the interaction leading to a cycle of continuous improvement. Enhanced knowledge about the customer and customer preferences allow you to refine the message or content to improve subsequent interactions.

In other words, it is about relationship building using data gleaned from customer interactions through various communication channels to support the continuous refining of relationships:

  • Selection of the channels and messages are driven by customer preference and receptivity.
  • This provides an improved customer database for refined segmentation by behavioral attributes.
  • Data about which content was presented, duration, frequency,which customers, feedback, responses to surveys, and click stream data, along with additional data sets such as sales, market share, sales growth provides you with the analytics to compare data sets for cause and effect in order to recommend corrections to the next approach.

In Closed Loop Marketing, when the insights gained during a customer interaction are used to make a change in the sales and marketing approach in order to improve a subsequent interaction, the loop is closed. Additionally, this intelligence can be extended to:

  • Multichannel Marketing – closed loop marketing with multiple interconnected channels.
  • Continuous Loop Marketing – allowing for improvements to happen on an ongoing basis, rather than one time only.

CRM Can Reach a Higher Consciousness

Click to view the Facebook Marketing Humor and Wisdom Page and be sure to “like” it!

Strategic CRM For Dummies

Dick Lee, founder of  High-Yield Methodsdiscusses why CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is out of mind for most CEOs. He partly blames software vendors for positioning CRM as mere software, a tactical tool rather than an enterprise-wide business strategy. But even more fundamental, he believes that the true strategic vision for which CRM was originally intended, is “rooted in a world view that chases strategic CRM right off most radar screens.” What world view is that? One based on achieving customer-centricity.

3 Reasons for Customer-Centricity In The Age of The Consumer

Lee gives 3 compelling reasons why customer-centricity is more than a buzzword.

1. It’s A Buyers’ Market

According to Lee, many business leaders and journals remain stuck in a time warp of internally focused business strategies, rather than customer-centric ones. Lee cites as examples Business Week and The Wall Street Journal as indulging in wishful business thinking, speaking of “regaining pricing power,” for instance. And yet, the business environment has shifted fundamentally. Here are some of the environmental shifts that the market has taken:

Demographics: An aging population means a fundamental shift from accumulation phase buying to retirement spending

Shorter product cycle times and increased productivity are flooding markets with too many goods and services for markets to absorb.

Global market competition and online communities are creating a hyper-competitive environment in which only the toughtest companies can survive.

2. Customers Are Taking Charge

Customers are learning how to leverage their advantage in today’s buyer’s market. Social media allows them to take the microphone away from marketers and demand that marketers listen to them, rather than try to influence them:

Run the proposition that companies have to shut up and listen to their customers up the average corporate flagpole. You’ll get run out of Dodge. After all, how can you make next quarter’s numbers by listening? Gotta squeeze those customers for every nickel they’re worth—every month, every week, every day, every hour—to make this quarter’s goals. Who has time to worry about next quarter and the next and the next?

3.  Companies Have To Offer More To Stay Even

Customers are demanding you offer the best products and  service, or they’ll go elsewhere. This may seem unfair to companies, but, as Lee points out, the side with money to spend are the ones who determine what’s fair:

But CxOs are still fighting “unreasonable customer expectations” and demanding that customers pay them a “reasonable price.” Reasonable enough to support whopping CxO salaries. Wanna stand up in front of a team of your peers and tell them to do more and expect the same, or even less? Duck.

Strategic CRM To the Rescue

Companies are under increased shareholder pressure to perform. But how? Cost-cutting will soon run its course. Endless reorganization, which Lee realistically calls downsizing in disguise, is counter-productive. Hard Selling and marketing no longer work. The only option left is to align with customers.

The above video by Emailvision describes Strategic CRM as “marketing as if you only have only one.” Companies that have heard the message of Stragic CRM, and used it to their benefit include:

  • Promologistics: “We now feel confident about the promises that we make to our customers, who rely on our services to grow their businesses.”
  • Shoplet.com:  “[It] gave us the ability to create highly targeted campaigns, understand their effectiveness and highlight areas for improvement.”
  • Gazzar Wines: “We grew our sales by 20%…Our email marketing now engages customers with tailored product recommendations based on their purchase history and browsing profile.
You can download their success stories from Envision’s site here.


Strategic CRM means reframing CRM back to a strategic initiative that creates value for the company by delivering new value to customers. Customer relationship management isn’t just about data mining. It’s about building relationships with customers at every touchpoint, and that grows out of a central strategy of customer-centricity that permeates the entire enterprise. The companies that dominate in the Age of the Consumer will be the ones who respond to their customers’ beliefs and values.

Why Provide A Personalized Experience Across Touch Points?

1. Personalization Drives Consumer Behavior

According to a December 2011 analysis from Janrain, in Q3 2011, personalization is important to consumers:

  • half of the consumers surveyed say that social login’s personalization capability is attractive to them
  • One-quarter are neutral.
  • One-quarter do not find the capability attractive.

The study also shows that personalization proves quite valuable.

  • 50% say that if a website personalizes their experience, they are more likely to return to the site
  • 46% say they are more likely to buy products/services from the site
  • 38% would be more likely to recommend the site to others
  • 33% are more likely to make purchases in-store.

2. Both Consumers and CEOs are More Demanding

A January 2012 survey of 94 retailers by Retail Systems Research finds that 63% of multichannel retailers expect the online channel to account for a sharp increase in their total sales by 2015.  As commerce continues to flow through multiple channels including in-store, online, mobile and direct mail,  it’s important to remember this basic lesson: consumers still give their business to companies that are more service-oriented and customer-focused.

3. Personalization Has Become an Important Differentiator

Here are some statistics:

  • ChoiceStream study shows that personalization can drive 10% in incremental sales.
  • Yet, only half of the Top 500 online retailers are using personalization techniques.
  • Over 61% of retailers say personalization is among the most important merchandising tactics in web retailing (10th Annual e-tailing group Merchant Survey.)
  • Some estimates are that e-commerce will account for 20% to 30% of total retail sales in the U.S. in as little as five years

Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group testifies that:

Personalization is critical, essential, and growing in importance because as merchants really want to grow conversion, giving the customer a targeted experience through personalization is more effective.

Millie Park, Vice President & General Manager or ChoiceStream explains more concretely in How Can Personalized Recommendations Transcend Channels? why personalization is so important:

Think about your favorite in-store experience. The one where a salesperson on the floor makes suggestions, provides feedback, and helps you find what you need. You shop there consistently for a reason. That “personal shopper” model can be replicated across other touch points as well, whether it be online, via email, or even in catalogs. But retailers few and far between actually provide this experience across touch points.

4. Personalization Brings the Enterprise Together

Integrating online data into the offline world has endless opportunities. The key organizational roles that can implement and benefit from personalization include:

  • Merchandisers – Being attuned to seasonality, product inventory and demand, merchandisers who oversee the presentation of products  can leverage the power of personal recommendations online, at in-store kiosks and Point-of-Sale.
  • Marketers – Personalized emails can be used to present recommendations and drive repeat visits both online and in-store, as well as to re-engage lapsed customers, to help create brand loyalists and advocates
  • Customer Relationship Management – Personalized recommendations can be deployed online, via email, in mobile-commerce environments and in-store if there is a way to tap into online customer activity at the cash register or in a call center environment. This will help CRM to maintain customer data and reengage and nurture customers while creating loyalty across channels.
  • Information Technology leaders – They can use personalization to assure that solutions deployed are usable across multiple touch points with minimal or no impact on resources and technology assets for both integration and maintenance, as well as enable the use of data across all channels while protecting personal customer data.
  • Store (Brick-and-Mortar) Management – While relying on marketing and online promotion to drive shoppers to the door, having more information on the customer can help them to make a sale.  By swiping a loyalty card or entering an online user ID and password, a prospective customer can give  a salesperson a glimpse of their online behavior including what recommendations they clicked on or  products they researched. This information can help the salesperson guide the customer to those same products that may be in-stock or on sale in the store.
  • The CEO – Since the CEO wants to assure that all the business groups are working in concert to assure customers are being seamlessly serviced and sales are being increased profitably across each channel, (s)he can readily  appreciate the contributions that a comprehensive personalized recommendation strategy can deliver.

Leading retailers are leading the way in embracing personalized recommendations, and finding ways to integrate recommendations across each touch point. Companies in the financial services industry, where buying decisions hinge on highly personal circumstances and concerns, should be closely following these retail trends for opportunities to leverage them to provide a more personalized experience across touch points that can help drive the purchase process.

New research conducted by Future Foundation titled Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks reveals attitudes towards data privacy. The study, published by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) surveyed 1,020 UK adults.

DMA Findings:

  • 80% accept the disclosure of personal information has become ‘a part of life.’
  • one in three regard their personal information as a commodity to be traded with companies in exchange for free services or better benefits.
  • 58% said trust was the key factor when deciding whether to share their information.
  • Only 32% said the offer of price discounts would be a sufficient incentive.
  • 85% would prefer to retain control of their information and exchange it for benefits or services when it suited them.

The “Information Transaction”

The study shows that consumers are willing to share personal information but they don’t consider it something they should give away for free. They will provide it in exchange for trust. Brands can build trust by being transparent and allowing consumers to have control over how and when their data was being used.

Chris Combemale, chief executive of the DMA, said companies that fail to grasp contemporary consumer attitudes towards data privacy will lose out to more data savvy competitors:

Online platform owners and brands that market digitally must understand the current range of consumer views on data privacy. Insight into what they regard as private, what information they’re willing to exchange and under what circumstances should underpin their marketing strategies. The balance of power is now tilted towards consumers. They alone have the ability to choose who they share their information with, so it’s down to brands to give them a compelling reason to do so.

This piece of DMA research highlights that unless brands are trusted, provide people with the opportunity to control how their data is used and suitably reward consumers for sharing it then they will be left behind in the digital economy.

3 Types of Consumers

The DMA’s the findings showed that attitudes within the population have remained largely constant over fifteen years. A segmentation of the data shows three types of consumers who are positive or accepting of the principle data exchange:

  •  53%: Pragmatists (happy to exchange data for specific consumer benefits).
  • 31%: Unconcerned (express no worries about providing data to organisations).
  • 16% Fundamentalists (opposed to data sharing unless there is a good reason).

Overall, despite the enormous increase in data exchange in the intervening period, the consumer privacy segmentation shows no evidence of a significant negative shift in consumer attitudes. Fundamentalists are attitudinally more concerned about keeping their information private and less positive about the idea of providing data in exchange for offers and service. Despite this, and their greater age, they still actively participate in the data economy at a slightly lower level.

Applications to Financial Services

The findings are roughly consistent with research from McCann Worldgroup released in October 2011 called “The Truth About Privacy.” About seven in 10 (71%) of global consumers are willing to share their personal shopping data with brands online.

Transparency: Close to six in 10 (57%) of US respondents say it is important to know exactly how their data is going to be used, selecting this as one of their to 3 important criteria when deciding to trust a brand. Closely following is a commitment from companies that they won’t pass personal data (ie. their telephone numberor email address), chosen by 56% of US respondents as a critically important criterion. 55% of US consumers want control over which data will be shared, while 30% want to know how they will benefit.

Sensitivity About Sharing Financial Information: However, this study indicates that consumers are more sensitive about sharing financial information online 5 times as many consumers will share their shopping data than will share their financial data online (14%). According to McCann insight, this reflects the sensitivity of financial information to a consumer’s sense of security. Roughly double the number of consumers (27%) will share medical data than will share financial data, while almost triple (39%) will share personal data.

Financial Institutions Most Trusted

Still, the McCann study shows that, globally, banks and credit companies are the most trusted to look after personal data and use it wisely. Medical companies are the next most trusted, followed by pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies. Consumers show the least amount of trust in beauty companies and dating websites:

  • 69% trust banks with their information (65% of US respondents).
  • 57% trust credit companies with their data (46% of US respondents).

Snap! principle of personal data exchange:

Personal data in exchange for trust. Businesses need to ensure their consumers trust them if they want to obtain their data.

Methods of Contacting or Providing Feedback to Companies that US Internet Users Are Aware of, Have Used and Prefer, April 2012 (% of respondents)

 Email Is The Preferred Method

A  Maritz Research April 2012 survey of US internet users found that consumers preferred using email to phone when looking to provide businesses with direct feedback.

  • 75% of respondents used email to give a company direct feedback
  • 66% made a phone call.

Take away: Put more resources into customer service email management.

Social Media Feedback Preferences

For feedback via social networks, there is an overwhelming preference for Facebook. They used social media to provide feedback as follows:

  • Facebook: 29%
  • Twitter: 8%
  • Google+: 8%

Customers have lower expectations for company responses when using Social Media.

  • 27% said they were “delighted” to get a response via social media.
  • 6% using a direct feedback method (like email) had such low expectations.

Preferences Closely Correlate to Age

Breaking data down among age groups, Maritz found younger customers were increasingly likely to embrace a social network for public feedback, while older consumers preferred older methods of direct contact with a company. Unsurprisingly, those ages 18 to 24 were much more likely than any other age group to prefer delivering feedback via Facebook.

Preferred Method of Contacting or Providing Feedback to Companies According to US Internet Users, by Age, April 2012 (% of respondents)

Attitudes About How Companies Use Customer Info

Negatives: Most consumers are not fully aware of the ways in which businesses use customer information, and tended to be uncomfortable upon finding out:

  • Only 34%  knew that browsing history is used to provide product recommendations.
  • 37% were aware of search engine data being leveraged to provide recommendations.
  • Respondents unaware of this showed discomfort with these approaches.

US Internet Users

Positives: Consumers were positive about companies:
  • using public data to understand what people think of their products.
  • using online information to help a dissatisfied customer.

Take away: Companies who directly engage consumers in the public sphere have an opportunity to earn customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

Snap! principle of web customer feedback:

Use it, and segment by age.

Mature companies have overcome technical and data challenges in their quest to deliver a compelling multichannel customer experience empowerment (Research by Econsultancy and Foviance)

The second annual Multichannel Customer Experience Report by eConsultancy shows how organisations are committing to delivering an integrated experience in a world of evolving technology and the proliferation of devices. A survey of over 650 companies and agencies, finds key differences in what the most successful multichannel companies are doing versus those that are struggling.

Differing Perceptions of How To Provide a Positive Customer Experience

The findings show that mature and immature companies have a different perception of the attributes required for delivering a positive customer experience:

  • Mature companies are far more likely to regard ‘motivated and empowered staff’ and ‘efficient customer service’ as among the three most important attributes.
  • Immature companies are more focused on visibility of customer behavior across channels and the need for a single or joined-up customer database.

Better Customer Experience Data Gathering  = Better Outcomes

This doesn’t mean that mature companies aren’t concerned about technical and data-related issues, but that they have already mastered these areas and can now go on to reap the benefits by focusing on key performance issues. Immature companies that are still worried about technology and systems, are losing sight of the importance of customer service and empowered staff.

According to Richard Sedley, Commercial Director at Foviance:

Companies that have benefited most from improving their multichannel customer experience are those that have recognised the importance of combining quantitative and qualitative customer insights. If your company isn’t already capturing ‘voice of customer’ via onsite surveying and social listening and integrating it with data from web analytics and search there has never been a better time to start.

 Better Data = Better Marketing

 An article by Jeffrey Boorjian, Vice president, Marketing at Caesars Entertainment Corporation on Chief Marketing highlights the importance of using customer experience data to deepen marketing insight. By integrating service data into their customer records, marketers can use information to better shape campaigns, alert their companies to potential problems, and aid in product design.
The great thing is that customers are willing to share meaningful feedback to help you improve products, resolve disputes, uncover errors and increase revenues – for free. However, this information typically remains isolated, not funneled to the appropriate departments and represent the loss of a valuable opportunity to businesses that fail to incorporate service data into their customer records, and use it profitably.

How To Collect Feedback

Marketers have many opportunities to collect feedback, formal and informal. The informality of a channel does not minimize the value of the data that can be gathered. If you employ multiple channels to collect feedback, you get the benefit of hearing the perspectives of disparate customer segments, which avoids getting feedback that is heavily weighted with a certain customer type that isn’t representative of the entire population.

Data collection methods include:

Formal surveys
* Online and social media
* Real-time in-store interactions

1. Formal Surveys

Marketers who have regular customer surveys can receive continuous and valuable insight into how their customers view their businesses. Here are some guidelines:

  • Surveys should follow each step in the customer experience to understand the  important drivers of customer satisfaction. Tailoring each set of questions to customers’ use of specific products or services both expedites the process and demonstrates knowledge of customers’ preferences.
  • Marketers should weight the surveys so their most valuable consumers have the strongest voice. For instance, in the airline industry a customer who has purchased a first-class ticket one week before the flight represents a substantial premium vs. someone in coach who used loyalty program currency to obtain a ticket based months in advance. If there is consistent feedback on a certain area, management needs to understand which consumers it is coming from, and the potential revenue implications of changing strategy.
  • Marketers should optimize response rates through timing and incentives because consumers are bombarded with customer surveys.
  • Survey within seven days of a customer’s purchase because recency is often the best predictor of future behavior.  This allows customers to reflect on their experiences and provide the most memorable feedback.
  • Provide appropriate resting periods before soliciting feedback again. Too often retailers deploy surveys to the same customers after every transaction. Over time, this typically decreases response rates.
  • Provide a clear benefit to customers for taking the survey, such as entry into a monthly drawing or a future discounts. People like being rewarded for their efforts.

2. Online And Social Media

Step 1. Have channels available for consumers: Today’s technology enables marketers to collect data in real time. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, etc. enable businesses to connect with different customer segments. These channels provide a wealth of ideas and serve as the foundation for innovation. Websites like mystarbucksideas.com offer excellent examples of businesses creating a forum for brand enthusiasts to share new concepts, provide suggestions for improvement and gauge customer feedback.

Step 2. Ensure active engagement by employees who are knowledgeable and empowered to speak on behalf of the company. Quite often, customers have complaints or comments that require in-depth product knowledge. Customers expect an immediate response. If a business does not respond or provides a generic answer, consumers will quickly disengage.

3. Real-Time Interactions

Real-time data collection can be challenging activity, but it is extremely valuable to have a database that tracks transactions. This provides quantitative support that helps balance the qualitative feedback marketers collect.

For example, companies often keep detailed records of customer service calls, complaints and preferences so they can tailor their approach when speaking with each customer.  For example, if a service representative  knows that a customer called three weeks ago interested a product but hesitant about the price, he can offer a discounted rate.

Ultimately, the more businesses learn about their customers, particularly their most profitable ones, the better off they will be. By continually collecting feedback and disseminating this information so that it is available throughout all customer-facing channels, businesses will reap financial rewards and engender strong loyalty.